Review of Girls Beyond the Wasteland


Girls Beyond the Wasteland sounds like the title of a show starring an all-female team, who travel across a desert, in a dystopian future. Sadly the series is more down to Earth than its name implies. What we have here is a twelve episode visual novel adaptation, about a high school club that have banded together to create a… visual novel. So, the source material is a visual novel revolving around the production of visual novels? Blimey, how Meta. If you ask me, my idea about babes navigating sandy dunes sounds way cooler. VNs are all the rage these days though (Steam and the PSN store are full of them) so perhaps the premise will resonate with some of you, more than it did for me.


Teenage student Buntaro Hojo is a jack-of-all-trades who is still deliberating what career path he should follow. Hojo’s extensive resume of part time jobs includes ramen waiter and amateur playwright. Although he is talented at serving tasty noodle dishes, it is Hojo’s skill at penning scripts that catches the eye of classmate Sayuki Kuroda. The younger sister of an established VN creator, Sayuki hopes to follow in her brother’s footsteps by producing a visual novel of her own. She enlists Hojo’s services and then proceeds to scout the school halls for other helpers, who will hopefully aid with the realization of her creative venture.

Hojo’s childhood pals Atomu Kai and Yuka Kobayakawa are hired for the roles of assistant director and voice actress respectively. Meanwhile first year student Uguisu Yuki is recruited to draw the game’s artwork, after it is revealed that she is a famous online illustrator. The person responsible for programming is a bespectacled lady named Teruha Ando. I guess Ando is qualified to code because she is a hardcore geek who attends conventions and reads boy love manga. For the record, not every otaku is proficient with computers. People assume, just because I play video games, that I can somehow mend their broken laptops. In actuality, I can’t even suss out how to set the clock on my oven!


My rating for Girls Beyond the Wasteland is two and a half stars out of five. The series would best be described as average. Not terrible enough to drop, but not great either. It provides a cursory glance at what visual novel development involves and can be amusing at times. Large portions of the show are however dull. Whilst watching the DVDs I kept pondering what else I could be doing with my time. Rather than sitting through a dozen episodes of mediocrity I could be doing something more constructive like tackling my PS4 backlog or ironing that pile of recently washed jockstraps. My mind kept wondering because the content onscreen was so generic.

Seasoned anime viewers will instantly recognize the uninspired character stereotypes that make up the cast. Yuki for example is the token timid girl, Ando is the overzealous fujoshi and Sayuki is the impassive beauty. At least Atomu stood out by having a dark side. Whenever someone describes him as “nice” a black miasma envelops Atomu and he flies into a furious rage. The word nice triggers painful memories, because Atomu’s ex dumped him for being too nice. Like they say, nice guys finish last. That’s why there is an endless supply of single gentlemen out there, whilst beautiful women queue up to become Chris Brown’s latest punching bag.

Things weren’t much better in terms of plot either. Every so often the club faces a hurdle that may wreck the visual novel project, such as Hojo suffering from writer’s block or Ando quitting in a huff. The drama gets resolved quickly though, robbing the narrative of any tension. We don’t even get a bit of romance to spice things up. Yuka seemingly has a crush on Hojo, but the potential relationship goes nowhere. She gets jealous over Hojo and Kuroda spending time together, causing her to sulk briefly, but in no time at all she gets over it. Perhaps she realized the futility of competing in a love triangle? Childhood friends seldom ever come out on top in those things.

Review of School-Live!


Warning: Be aware that this review contains spoilers. I don’t like giving too much away in my posts, but it’s impossible to discuss this series without spoilers given how episode one concludes with a “twist” that is bigger than Godzilla dancing to a Chubby Checker tune.

At first glance School-Live appears to be another “cute girls doing cute things” anime, albeit one about an unusual club. Rather than dance Yosakoi, perform music or hunt espers the members of the School Life Club spend all their time at Megurigaoka High. Even when classes have ended for the day Yuki, Kurumi, Yuri and Miki stay inside the academy building. They even sleep there! Are they a rare breed of student who can’t get enough of school? Nah. The group is barricaded in there because the surrounding area is infested with carnivorous zombies! Oh man, why can’t shambling corpses switch over to a more peaceful vegan diet? Grains are tastier than brains after all.


The first episode of School-Live is both terrible and brilliant. I wasn’t too impressed watching protagonist Yuki Takeya attend lessons and chase after a cute puppy for almost twenty minutes. Not too original and more Moe than a Simpsons bartender. The payoff was however worth the tedium. Just before the end credits roll it is revealed that viewers have been watching events through the perspective of a distressed girl, who is deluding herself to cope with the trauma of living in a zombie apocalypse. The classrooms she sits in are vacant, aside from the imaginary pupils in her head. Megurigaoka’s pristine looking halls are in reality blood stained corridors.

Now I was invested. A sweet story transforming into a complete nightmare is one sure fire way of grabbing my attention… reminds me of the time I lost my head over what occurred in Madoka Magica. The series never abandons the lighthearted elements found in the inaugural episode though. Instead the script bounces between comedy and horror, which should be tonally jarring but somehow works. Given how heart wrenching School-Live’s narrative can be I welcomed the respite afforded by Yuki’s hijinks. Her friends seem to be of the same opinion. Rather than finding Yuki’s behaviour odd, they appreciate how her carefree spirit wards off the doom and gloom.

Speaking of friends, let’s segue into talking about Yuki’s chums. First up is the buxom club president Yuri Wakasa. She gives the air of unflappable leader, although deep down is suffering from stress. If Yuri is the brains (watch out dear, zombies love brainssss) then Kurumi Ebisuzawa is the brawn. She is always seen gripping her trusty shovel, which Kurumi uses to crack undead skulls. The newest member of the School Life Club is a Stephen King reader named Miki Naoki, who the group rescued from a zombie-ridden mall. Last on the list is club advisor Megumi Sakura. Despite being a teacher no one gives her much respect. The girls refer to her as Megu-ne, instead of Miss Sakura, much to her chagrin. Even worse, everyone always ignores her suggestions.


My rating for School-Live is five stars. I’m probably overrating the series slightly, but bear in mind that I am a cowardly wuss who normally avoids scary movies. As a result zombie yarns still feel fresh to me, which may explain why Walking Dead was my favourite game of 2012. I think School-Live was at its strongest during its flashback episodes. Miki under siege at the mall, how Kurumi became proficient with a shovel and the origin of Yuki’s fantasies will make anyone root for their survival. The comical present day tales weren’t as good, but still enjoyable. After witnessing their tragic backstories, it was nice seeing the girls enjoy life for a change.

I seldom mention OPs/EDs in my reviews, but will make an exception for School-Live. The ending theme titled Harmonize Clover is a beautiful ditty, whilst the opening’s animation was cleverly put together. Episode one’s overly saccharin opener gets darker with each passing instalment; mirroring Yuki’s state of mind, as she begins to question the make believe world she has hidden herself in. Other highlights include Taromaru, the pup that Yuki pursued in episode one. Said doggie is my new favourite anime mascot (sorry Pen Pen.)

Viewers seeking an alternative to Highschool of the Dead may want to give School-Live a try. They both tick the girls versus zombies box, even if stylistically they are very different. HOTS is mostly action and eye candy whilst School-Live is psychological yet humorous. That’s not to say that School-Live is free from fan service though. Shower scenes, posterior close ups and swimsuits are all present. Even when characters are trapped in a decrepit building, anime finds a way to shoehorn a bikini episode. I wish I was kidding about that, but like a zombie I am dead serious.

Review of One Punch Man


Some people think that Superman is a boring hero, because he is so powerful. I can only imagine what they would make of Saitama, the bald headed protagonist of One Punch Man. The Man of Steel is at least weak to Kryptonite and magic. Saitama on the other hand is nigh on invulnerable and can down any foe with a single thump. As it turns out boredom is a two way street. Easy victories are not only dull for viewers to watch, but also for the hero as well. A crime-fighting career may sound exciting, but it really isn’t when evildoers take less effort to dispatch than earning a platinum trophy on a Telltale video game.


One Punch Man is a thirteen-episode anime based on the manga created by the chap responsible for Mob Psycho 100. This comical take on the superhero genre stars a caped crusader who possesses herculean might. Forget super soldier serums, mystical mallets or getting zapped by lightning. Saitama earned his strength by following a strict daily regime of squats, push-ups and ten kilometre jogs. Sounds exhausting and not worth the hassle when you consider that the physical strain will make your scalp resemble the chrome dome of Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

The series takes place in City Z, a metropolis that is routinely harassed by giants, humanoid chimeras and effeminate sea dwellers. You’d think the citizenry would appreciate how Saitama protects their homes from danger, but alas his efforts seldom get noticed. It’s tough to make the local news when you reside in an area boasting an overabundance of vigilantes. There’s so many of the buggers that a union has been established to coordinate their activities. Media coverage is normally reserved for S-Rank guardians of justice. Saitama meanwhile is a lowly C list hero, because he flunked the written portion of the Hero Association exam.


Despite the lack of recognition Saitama manages to earn the admiration of a teen cyborg named Genos, who he eventually takes under his wing. Genos is for all intents and purposes the show’s Vegeta. He’s a powerful fighter in his own right, but more often than not gets beaten up by the villain of the week – in order to illustrate how mighty the antagonist is. Saitama can then step up to the plate and save the day with one uppercut, whilst the scrap pile that is his protégée looks on in awe. Over the course this collection Genos is “killed” so many times that he may as well wear a parka and start calling himself Kenny.

If the series was nothing more than a cour worth of one joke tales, were Saitama knocks out baddies, it would quickly lose its lustre. Thankfully the script is consistently funny thanks, in part, to the quirky support cast. Characters of note include an arrogant esper named Terrible Tornado, a high-speed ninja called Sonic and Puri-Puri Prisoner the camp strongman. Most of the heroes are goofballs, although I have to say that Mumen Rider succeeded in earning my respect. He may just be a regular Joe who travels to crime scenes on a BMX, but his heart is in the right place. Wow. It’s not often that someone with a driver’s licence has a good word to say about a cyclist. You should be proud of yourself.


My rating for One Punch Man is four stars. One of the funnier UK anime releases of 2017 and the opening theme song is a contender for manliest OP of the year. Given the current popularity of Marvel movies I imagine this satirical take on superheroes will be a big hit with many viewers. Action plays second fiddle to comedy in this series, but the fisticuffs we get are decent. Akira Toriyama clearly influenced Studio Madhouse both in terms of enemy character design and the high-octane nature of the show’s brawls. Unlike DBZ, One Punch Man does however resolve conflicts in a speedy manner. Evidently the duration of a fight is directly proportional to the length of the hero’s locks.

Review of Castlevania (Netflix)


Greetings and salutations everyone. The Otaku Judge here with another animated series review. Usually I focus on anime from Japan, but this time round my critique is on Castlevania – a U.S produced cartoon based on Konami’s video games. Scripted by comic book scribe Warren Ellis, Castlevania’s four-part first season is presently available to view on Netflix. After finding success with superhero adaptations, the popular streaming service is now tapping into console games for TV show ideas. Whether the experiment works out remains to be seen, but at the very least Castlevania convinced me to finally take advantage of Netflix’s free trial. I like trials… and I’m not just saying that because I am a judge.


One thing that surprised me about Castlevania is that it dedicates all of episode one to Dracula. The inaugural chapter, of this series, explains why the legendary vampire hates humanity. Years ago a doctor named Lisa Tepes braved the bloodsucker’s mansion in search of medicinal knowledge. She found what she sought and a new husband in the process, as Lisa tied the knot with Dracula shortly thereafter. Unfortunately the couple’s romance ended in tragedy, when the church learned of Lisa’s research. Mistaking the drugs Lisa concocted for witchcraft, she was burned at the stake. Dracula vowed revenge against mankind for his beloved’s execution. The evil clergy have doomed us all! Religious folks may want to avoid Castlevania, as it doesn’t paint priests in a good light.

The only man who can save us from Dracula’s demonic army is monster slayer Trevor Belmont. He has however given up on the family business, after the pope excommunicated his clan. These days Trevor is more likely to fight drunkards than creatures of the night, as he drifts from town to town looking for booze. Episode two for example sees Belmont brawl at a tavern, whose patrons include a family of goat fuckers… I “kid” ye not. Trevor cannot escape his destiny though and eventually gets embroiled in the Dracula conflict. In search of grub our whip-wielding hero stumbles into the city of Gresit, which is presently under siege by Count D’s legion of winged fiends.


We don’t get to see Trevor go all out until episode three, when he allies himself with a sect of mystics known as the Speakers. Much like Trevor, Gresit’s religious leadership hounds the spell-casting faction. Although benign, Speakers are reviled by the populace as their sorcery is deemed to be dark magic. One of the group’s members has vanished inside the local catacombs, where a fabled saviour is said to slumber. Trevor enters the crypt in search of the wayward Speaker only to find a Cyclops guarding the mausoleum. A battle ensues between Belmont and the hulking beast, which possesses a petrifying stare. Those unfortunate enough to get caught by the monster’s gaze will get more stoned than Snoop Dogg.

In terms of action, Trevor versus the Cyclops is an appetizer of things to come. The season finale is twenty minutes of non-stop carnage, as Belmont attempts to liberate Gresit from the clutches of tyrannical holy men and protect the citizenry from a horde of gargoyles. Blood and dismembered body parts rain down from the sky, reminding viewers why the show carries a sixteen plus age classification. Once the dust clears one more opponent remains for Trevor to overcome, although I will keep their identity a secret for the sake of spoilers. My lips are sealed, although I will divulge that ladies who admire shirtless pretty boys will approve of the final adversary. Hey can’t you spare some fan service for us guys too? We deserve a consolation prize after losing the gender war for Dr Who.


My rating for Castlevania is a three and a half out of five. Some reviewers are overrating the series slightly, but I can’t blame them given how rare watchable video game adaptations are. Overall I was impressed with the script, voice work and visuals – although the animation could have been stronger in places. The stiffness of Trevor’s cape is especially noticeable in certain scenes. When the end credits rolled I was left wanting more, partly due to the low episode count and partly because of its abrupt conclusion. Netflix are promoting Castlevania as “season one” but they aren’t fooling anyone. This is clearly a movie chopped up into four parts. Based on this impressive showing I can’t wait for season two. Like a Sesame Street vampire I will “count” the days until Dracula return.

Review of God Eater (Volume 1)


Gods are tasty, but I couldn’t eat a whole one. I mean, just look at Thor. That guy is huge! In all seriousness though, no divine beings were consumed during the creation of this show. God Eaters are the warriors who protect Japan, in the year 2071, from creatures known as Aragami. These guardians of humanity charge into battle wielding God Arcs – a transformative weapon that can don the shape of a bazooka or colossal blade, depending on the needs of its user. Based on Bandai Namco’s video games, this first collection contains seven of the anime’s thirteen episodes.


Fans of the God Eater games are probably wondering how faithful this anime adaptation is to the source material. The answer to that question is I don’t know. Although I own God Eater 2 on PS4 I haven’t played it much. Monster hunting games sound like fun on paper, but I usually lose interest in them pretty quick. The endless cycle of farming bosses, for a 1% chance of acquiring materials I need to upgrade my gear, gets old really fast. One thing I can say however is that God Eater is one of the better shows based on a console title… even if admittedly the competition isn’t fierce in that genre.

Lenka Utsugi is the show’s protagonist. Over the course of this DVD set we see how he grows from a hothead rookie to a member of the elite First Unit. There’s action aplenty, as Lenka fights to protect his city from attack and participates in hunting missions. God Eater’s battles are visceral and gravity defying, but in terms of visuals the CG effects lack the polish of other Ufotable works. Sometimes character models look off and on other occasions there are noticeable animation blips. For instance, free flowing locks turn rigid in certain scenes. That’s what happens when you use concrete as a hair gel substitute I suppose.

Another thing that’s distracting about the series is the fashion sense of its cast. Lenka works for an organisation named Fenrir, who employ guards that dress in sensible military garb. The same cannot be said for the God Eaters though. All the guys look like they purchased their attire at Hot Topic. The ladies meanwhile have opted to go into combat braless. Russian beauty Alisa Illinichina Amiella has no shame, as she somersaults across the battlefield with no undergarments and a tiny top that barely covers her breasts. Given the proportions of anime women you’d think they would be well versed in the benefits of adequate chest support.


My rating for God Eater (vol. 1) is a three out of five. First impressions weren’t good, as the series is really generic. An insubordinate male lead that defends a walled city from carnivorous giants has been done before and done better. Thankfully it gets more interesting as it goes along. Regular flashbacks, which drip feed lore, helped to flesh out the narrative whilst the episodes featuring the plight of defenceless refugees succeeded in getting me emotionally invested. Alisa also surprised me by being more than mere eye candy. Her debut presents the character as an arrogant badass, but when denied medication in episode six it’s revealed that she suffers from Shia Labeouf levels of mental instability.

I had high hopes for God Eater, as the makers of Fate/Zero animated it. Sadly the series lacks Fate’s substance. All things considered though it is entertaining enough, especially when you consider its chequered production history. Back when God Eater aired on Japanese TV the release schedule suffered from more delays than a London Underground train. Not ideal, but somehow Ufotable have managed to salvage the anime. If volume two continues to improve with each instalment my hunger for a good video game cartoon will be satisfied, just like how a snack of Odin’s son satiates my appetite.

Review of Himouto! Umaru-chan


Forget about fake news, what about fake people? You know the ones, folks who pretend to be someone else to fit in with the cool crowd. I am useless at hiding my geeky credentials (what with my stereotypical specs, acne encrusted skin and poor social skills) but the same isn’t true for everyone else. Your strict boss could be a closet brony for example! Umaru Doma, the star of Himouto Umaru-chan, happens to be one of those social chameleons. In public she portrays the role of model student – beautiful, great at sports and top of the class when it comes to grades. Away from prying eyes however she is a hardcore otaku who loves games, manga and unhealthy snacks.


The only person privy to Umaru’s secret identity is her long-suffering elder brother Taihei Doma. Anime fans know that parents do not exist, in the wacky world of Japanese cartoons, so the aforementioned siblings cohabitate alone in a modest studio apartment. Life at home is filled with feuds over Umaru’s refusal to do chores or anything else constructive for that matter. Taihei tries to lay down the law, but more often than not capitulates to Umaru’s tantrums. A few tears and some guilt tripping is all that’s required to coerce bro into buying her hamsters, the latest comic or a new console game.

On paper I should despise Umaru, for being a selfish brat, but somehow the series manages to make her likable. It’s tough to hate the protagonist, as her egoistic personality is the catalyst for much of the show’s hilarity. I also have a soft spot for the lead as her hobbies mirror my own. We look nothing alike though. She might be able to maintain a slim figure by guzzling carbonated beverages and sitting in front of a PC all day, but I certainly can’t. Perhaps her trim waist is the result of shape shifting powers? Whenever Umaru reaches home she transforms from a regular girl to a hoodie wearing chibi cutie.


Normally when an anime character shifts into an ultra deformed look no one acknowledges the change, but in Umaru’s case it appears that she genuinely does morph into a midget. Case in point – the time her shy classmate Kirie Motoba turned up at the Doma abode. When Kirie spotted the diminutive Umaru she was easily convinced into believing that Chibi Umaru is a made up little sister named Komaru. Then again none of the cast are sharp when it comes to identification. Umaru’s academic rival Sylphyn Tachibana for example doesn’t suspect that the buddy she hangs out with, at the local arcade, is Umaru sporting an eye mask!

Speaking of buddies, Umaru’s best friend is a buxom gal named Nana Ebina. Nana has a crush on Umaru’s brother, stemming from the time she migrated over from Akita to the big city. Taihei garnered her admiration, as he was the only person to make eye contact with her. Miss Ebina is oblivious to the fact that the locals aren’t mean; they just weren’t making eye contact as their gaze was squarely focused on her knockers! Other characters of note include Taihei’s trio of office co-workers. Takeshi the slacker with an Afro, German born Alex who browses for anime girls on work computers and Kanau the flirtatious manager.


My rating for Himouto Umaru-chan is a three and a half out of five. I wasn’t too impressed with the first episode, but the series gradually grew on me. Each instalment introduces a new character to the mix and it was fun watching them bounce off each other. In terms of structure the anime reminds me of The Comic Artist & His Assistants. Each episode is a chain of skits, which are low on story and high on amusement. I dug the funny anime references and could relate to the Doma brother/sister dynamic. Like most siblings they bicker a lot, but occasionally you’ll glimpse moments that show how much they value each other’s company. Their animated relationship is more genuine than the fake news CNN peddles.

Review of My Love Story


Romance shows are so dull. Once you have watched one lovey-dovey series you have pretty much seen them all, as they all follow the same uninspired narrative. Or so I thought. My Love Story (also known as Ore Monogatari) stands out from the crowd thanks to its male lead. Instead of starring an effeminate pretty boy, protagonist Takeo Goda is a fifteen-year-old kid who has the body of an eighties roided out wrestler and looks that only a mother could love. Needless to say he isn’t very popular with the ladies, who instead prefer Takeo’s dreamy best bud Makoto Sunakawa.


I hear that Japan’s railway service is top notch thanks to its punctual trains. Delay free travel comes at a price however; as hentai has taught me that the country’s rail lines are infested with molesters. One day, on the commute to school, Takeo spots one of these gropers harassing an innocent girl. Incensed by the lecherous behaviour, Takeo pummels the sleazebag before handing him over to the cops. Rinko Yamato, the dainty lady Takeo rescued, is so smitten by her saviour’s heroics that she cannot resist asking him out on a date. Who knew that some females are into guys that resemble gorillas?

Normally a show of this nature would test my patience with two-dozen episodes of melodrama. Will they or won’t they hook up? Thankfully author Kazune Kawahara, who penned the manga that this anime is based on, dispensed with all that nonsense. After just a few episodes Takeo and Rinko are officially an item. Rather than tease its audience the series instead focuses on telling humorous tales about the fledgling couple. We get stories dealing with their first kiss, Takeo competing at a Judo tournament and a finale featuring a love rival who threatens to steal Rinko’s heart. There’s also a trip to the beach too. Heaven forbid that we get an anime devoid of bikinis!


My Love Story does an excellent job of showing how different genders react to romance. When Takeo’s pals learn that he has a girl they waste no time in congratulating him. Rinko’s friends on the other hand cannot resist making snide remarks about her man’s appearance. Girls can be rather judgemental when it comes to looks. Thankfully Takeo is able to win over the critics… even if earning the approval of Rinko’s peers required that he use his brawn to save them from a burning building! Not everyone with a vagina is that shallow though. Takeo’s selfless personality doesn’t go unnoticed. Despite his physical deficiencies he attracts a number of admirers via his willingness to always aid those in need.

One failing that Takeo’s might and altruistic principles can’t overcome is how dense he is when it comes to matters of the heart. Thankfully his BFF Suna is always close by to impart relationship advice. Suna’s knowledge on courtships is surprising, as he has never had a girlfriend. There’s a long line of moist gals (and one bespectacled stalker) who would love to jump his bones, but for whatever reason he always turns down members of the opposite sex. Maybe he is gay? Nah. That one time Takeo tried to practice kissing on Suna, in a scene that will make fujoshis squeal, he wasn’t receptive to the idea at all.


I am awarding My Love Story a five star rating. The series is one of those rare shows that can appeal to anyone. Girls will dig the romance whilst guys can enjoy the jokes. Despite being overly cute the anime never made me want to hurl. The show’s unconventional heartbreaker offsets the sparkle heavy mushy moments, as do the hilarious visual gags. It also gives hideous freaks like myself hope. You don’t have to be a genius or possess Brad Pitt’s looks to lead a happy life. Takeo has a ton of friends and found love just by being a nice guy. Want a girlfriend? Just man up and help that cutie that is being harassed next time you hop on the underground. Sadly for me my town doesn’t have a train station. Doh!